Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hard and heavy tidings

In the wee hours of late summer, both pre- and post-primary election, the long hours of work frequently demand cheesy soap opera-esque dramas to soothe the unending campaign routine.

The Maggie Hope series provided exactly that relief.

The main character is half-British, half-American trying to find her roots in London when war breaks out. She happens to be a brilliant mathematician who speaks German. She happens to be recruited to join the secret service in the war effort. And of course, she discovers that her supposedly long-dead father is actually a brilliant scientist working with Alan Turing on super-secret code stuff, that her also supposedly long-dead mother is in fact a famous German spy, that the man she loves in Book One and supposedly dies in Book Two is alive after all in Book Three (to create an awkward love triangle with Man 2, who consoled her after the "death" of Man 1).  And that she has a nurse half-sister in Berlin who secretly tries to save mentally ill and other Nazi-deemed "undesirable" children.

In between all of these scandalous revelations, Miss Hope (right?) saves London from an Irish insurgent, saves Princess Elizabeth from a Nazi kidnapping plot, and gathers valuable information for the Allies from behind enemy lines in the heart of the Fatherland. Naturally, she goes rogue several times (but her ends always justify the means); and she always has a showdown with male superiors who want to limit her role to more mundane and secretarial duties. There are also inspirational Churchill quotes interspersed, Mrs Miniver-like scenes from around Britain, and gay and Jewish best friends to remind us of what the war is really about.

The books are a fairly quick read, and the plots are almost comic-book unbelievable. But they're still enjoyable!